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Progressive GI Symptoms: Could it be Scleroderma?

Functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are extremely common. However, on rare occasions, people thought to have a functional GI disorder can develop progressive GI symptoms from another underlying condition. This is truly rare, but when symptoms do not respond as expected, or if symptoms get worse and worse despite a clinician's best efforts, it may be worth considering other things.

Scleroderma is one of many different conditions that can affect the GI tract. Most people with progressive GI symptoms do not have scleroderma, but some individuals with early scleroderma may have typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, and other GI conditions. 

Note that other symptoms are common in scleroderma, which are not typical in GI conditions. These include painful and swollen joints, skin tightening, and reduced blood flow to fingers, toes, and rarely to the nose, ears, and lips.

The sections that follow discuss things we know about scleroderma, and how scleroderma can affect the digestive tract. As you read it, keep in mind that scleroderma is very rare, so chances are that you or a loved one does not have this condition.

Working with Your Doctor

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Successful relationships with healthcare providers are an important part of managing life with a long-term digestive disorder.

Doctor–Patient Communication

How to Help Your Doctor Help You

How to Talk to Your Doctor